The Presbyterian Church of Circleville was established in 1822 and quickly became Pickaway County’s principal Presbyterian Church. The first church was built in 1826 and was located on the site of the present church, which is the third structure to occupy the East Mound Street location.
In 1838 the church divided as a result of the “Old School-New School controversy. The majority maintained the New School position and retained the building. An Old School congregation was soon formed and the two congregations existed separately for over 40 years.
From 1843 to 1854 the First Church was served by Dr. James E. Rowland. This was his only pastorate and his body is interred beneath the bell tower of the present building.
In 1882 the two congregations reunited under the leadership of Dr. James P. Stratton, who was pastor for 14 years. During his pastorship the present building was constructed between 1899 and 1901, except for the tower, which was added in 1910. A Presbyterian edifice has stood on this site for over 175 years.
The sanctuary is a good example of the so-called Akron Plan. The pews are arranged in somewhat of a semi-circle and instead of one main aisle there are three. Worshipers see three magnificent stained glass windows, installed when the building was constructed in 1900. The window facing Mound Street is known as the Ascension Window, as it depicts Jesus Christ “ascending into heaven to sit upon the right hand of God.” The window on the west side of the sanctuary is the Resurrection Angel window. Its focal point is a beautiful angel. The third window is located above the chancel. It features a white cross surrounded by lilies and six doves, and is appropriately called the Cross and Doves Window. The windows were reportedly designed by Marion Darst. All three of them were presented as memorial gifts. On the ceiling over the chancel is the Descending Dove, cast in plaster and given by Theodore Steele, long time church member.
The pipe organ was given in 1929 as a memorial gift. It was built by the Page Organ Company of Lima, Ohio. It has since been extensively modified and rebuilt by the Bunn-Minnick Pipe Organ Company of Columbus, Ohio and is one of the finest pipe organs in central Ohio. It contains 28 ranks (sets) of pipes, each with its own distinctive sound. The organ also has a full set of chimes, and a harp, an unusual accessory in church pipe organs. The pipes are located in three chambers behind the white façade pipes, which are located above the choir loft. All but six of the façade pipes are actual speaking pipes. The organ is extremely versatile, and is capable of faithfully reproducing virtually every type and style of organ literature. Jack Mader is in his 30th year as the church organist, and is only the sixth known person in the 187 year history of the church to hold that position.
The music program, in addition to the organ, includes the adult Chancel Choir, directed by Rita Painter, which sings from September to June, and a handbell choir, directed by Erin Spring, which was established in the late 1970s.
The first Christian Education wing was constructed in 1965. The church manse, which stood just east of the church, was razed to make room for this addition. Prior to the wing’s construction, Sunday School classes were squeezed into every available space in the church building, including the basement furnace room, the balconies overlooking the sanctuary, and even a funeral home across the street.
As the 21st century dawned, the congregation of the Circleville Presbyterian Church began an intense study of its mission and goals, along with the physical facilities. A major focus of that study was the lack of handicap accessibility. As a result of this study, and following much prayer and consideration, plans were formulated for a new and spacious Fellowship Hall (now known as Campbell Hall) and kitchen, new offices, an elevator, refurbished classrooms, and full accessibility. Most of the 1965 Christian Education wing was demolished and the new building, designed architecturally to match the original church as much as possible, rose in its place. Construction began just after Easter 2004 and was completed in just under a year. The new addition was dedicated in 2005. The old Social Room, located in the basement beneath the sanctuary, is currently used by Chance to Dance.
In June 2008 the Rev. William M. Campbell retired as pastor, concluding a pastorate of nearly 25 years at the Circleville Presbyterian Church. At nearly a quarter of a century, Rev. Campbell’s tenure is by far the longest of any of the church’s pastors. The new Fellowship Hall was re-named Campbell Hall in his honor.
Rev. Troy S. Braswell was called as pastor of the Circleville Presbyterian Church from 2011 through 2015.
Rev. Joel A. Esala was called as pastor of the Circleville Presbyterian Church from 2017 through 2020.
For the past 20 years the Circleville Presbyterian Church has hosted a Community Kitchen that provides an evening meal to anyone desiring it three days a week. In addition to our congregation, other churches and organizations in the Circleville area take turns preparing and serving these meals.
For nearly two centuries the Presbyterian Church of Circleville has served the community and has served the cause of Christ. With God’s help we will continue to do so.
Special thanks to Jack Mader for providing this written history.